Al Attiya v. Bin-Jassim Bin-Jaber Al Thani, [2016] EWHC 212 (QB)

Al Attiya v. Bin-Jassim Bin-Jaber Al Thani, [2016] EWHC 212 (QB)

The defendant was the former Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar. The claimant issued a claim for damages for trespass to his land and person against the defendant and carried out personal service on him in London at one of his properties. The defendant applied to strike out the claims against him on the basis that the court lacked jurisdiction due to State and diplomatic immunity.

Mr Justice Blake in the High Court (QB) accepted that the defendant was entitled to the benefit of Qatar’s immunity pursuant to the State Immunity Act 1978, and accordingly that the Court had no jurisdiction over the claims brought against the defendant in the present case. The claims being based on an allegation of abuse of public power by the defendant in his official capacity meant that the claimant had indirectly impleaded the State of Qatar. The fact that the claimant contends that the dispute with the defendant arose as a purely personal matter is irrelevant per Jones v. Ministry of the Interior of Saudi Arabia.

In any case, the Court went on to consider whether the defendant was entitled to immunity from suit under the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964 (the “DPA”) as an accredited member of the Qatari Embassy. The High Court held that the defendant enjoyed diplomatic immunity primarily on the basis that his appointment and position as a diplomatic agent of the Qatari Embassy had been confirmed by a certificate provided to the Court by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office pursuant to Section 4 of the DPA. The Court declined to carry out its own enquiry as to whether the defendant was actually engaged in the performance of diplomatic functions since it would open the door to the real possibility that conflicting factual findings were made between the court and the FCO, with the result that it would undermine the “one voice” principle.